Double celebration for Cowes lifeboat service

Two birthdays of the Cowes lifeboat service were celebrated in style last weekend, with the marking of the 30th anniversary of the creation of the independent service and the 10th anniversary of the replacement RNLI operation.

People involved in one, or both services, gathered at the lifeboat station to witness a re-dedication led by its chaplain, the Rev Andrew Poppe, and hear speeches from the Island’s Lord Lieutenant, Maj Gen Sir Martin White, the Chair of the Lifeboat Management Group, Hugh Robotham, and the station’s Operations Manager, Mark Southwell.

Hugh, a former member of the independent lifeboat but now chairman of RNLI station, recalled how the move to establish a lifeboat in Cowes came out of a tragic collision between a Red Funnel hydrofoil and a fishing boat in 1987. The following year Cowes Rescue came into being, with a six metre Avon RIB.

For the next 20 years Cowes Rescue had to work hard to raise funds. There were two replacement lifeboats over this period, but then a ‘tough decision’ was made to invite the RNLI to take over the running of the service, with their own boat.

Mark, a former Cowes customs officer, recalled how after becoming the lifeboat station’s operations officer he became involved in the one million pound appeal for the new station (the former Customs House) and its official opening by the Queen. ‘’We got there by the quality of the volunteers who have turned up to run this station. It is a true team effort……. Everyone who is a member of this station should take immense pride in what they have achieved.’’

There was also praise for the station and its volunteers from Maj Gen White, who is also president of the RNLI’s Isle of Wight Lifeboat Board.

The double anniversary was further marked over the weekend with an impressive photographic exhibition, open to the public at the Regatta Centre by kind permission of Cowes Combined Clubs Ltd. Most of the pictures were taken by station member Nick Edwards.